Losing digital heritage

Our oldest written sources date back hundreds or even thousands of years. But digital files are written on perishable material, such as CDs or flash memory. These devices often wear out after only a few years. If Digital Restrictions Management systems chain our contemporary culture (whether books, music or films) to those devices and media, they will be lost with the medium they are stored on.

While locked in culture is already a big problem for private use, it is a much greater issue for libraries, archives, museums and other institutions. They store and disseminate our records, which are becoming increasingly digital and they need to be able to copy content. Furthermore, DRM systems only last as long as the companies that sell them. When a DRM system disappears, the content stays locked forever.

While libraries and archives once preserved our cultural knowledge for centuries, they are now forced to spend significant sums of public money on material that will become unreadable in a few short years; a wealth of cultural, historical and educational sources will be lost. Future researchers might wonder why today’s society locked away its own culture from itself.

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